Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Church Architecture

In Christianity on June 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm

For some months, I’ve wanted to do a post about Church buildings.

Anyone who travels and attends Mass, soon realizes how much rich worship heritage we abandoned — when multi-purpose rooms, that look more like gymnasiums, became the architectural norm for suburban Catholic churches.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, Greenville, SC, has written an extraordinarily helpful post about this topic. In it, he says all I had hoped to say — and more. A link directly to “Of Teepees & Tabernacles” is here. But because Our Lady of the Rosary is building a new church I encourage you to click here, too. Read all of Fr. Longenecker’s posts on Church architecture, listed in the left hand column.

The chronicle of OLR’s historical progress toward a new church building may also reflect something your parish is going through right now. Perhaps knowing OLR’s story — even being in contact with Fr. Longenecker — may be helpful to you and your parish.

A parish with this degree of God-given insight as to the connection between architecture and worship deserves encouragement and prayer support from all of us.

That’s Christianity Richly!

The LCWR Controversy

In Christianity on June 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm

The riches of Catholic Christianity — Christianity Richly! — are all positive. So you will seldom find a post here engaging in polemics. But the current controversy over the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) deserves mention.

Much of the national press has made this out to be a battle between courageous women and a besieged Vatican trying to stave off modernity. This is a misrepresentation. What the Vatican has been seeking to do is restore Christian unity with the LCWR, on the basis of shared beliefs. John 17 makes it clear Christian unity is one of the riches Christ intends for us to share.  But there cannot be unity where there is no common faith.

What follows is the text of a letter I wrote to the New York Times. Perhaps it will shed some light on the controversy. In addition, I encourage you to click this link and listen to the June 17 homily by Fr. Jay Scott Newman on the topic. As I’m writing this post, the June 17 homily has not yet been added to the list, but should be soon.

Dear Ms. [Maureen] Dowd:

Seldom has a piece in the New York Times shown such manifest ignorance of its subject than “Is Pleasure a Sin?” which rotated on to page one of the online edition today [Saturday, June 16, 2012. Dowd’s article was originally published June 5].

First, with respect to the nuns, every Catholic Christian convert knows that on entering the Church, s/he will be asked to promise: “I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.” It is perfectly all right to disagree. Such disagreement will be resolved later, in a higher court. But it is not acceptable to claim to be part of the Church and defy its teachings. The misguided days of so-called “faithful dissent,” stemming from misunderstanding of Vatican II, are past.

Second, the Catholic Church takes sex more seriously, in a positive way, than our society. As a result of 189 addresses made over a five year period by Pope John Paul II, the Church today teaches a theology of the body that elevates the beauty and blessings of physical intimacy. It also stresses the importance of personhood. For example, it declares the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much (the prudish reaction you attribute to the Church), but that it shows too little. Porn fails to show whole persons. Rather, it reduces persons — most often women, about whom you profess to care — to objects of pleasure used by others. The opposite of love is not hate. It is to use someone; to reduce them to an object.

One can only marvel that the opprobrium once reserved for indiscriminate sex is now more commonly aimed at indiscriminate consumption of food. See Mary Eberstadt’s hilarious — were the topic not so serious —  exposé, “Is Food the New Sex: A Curious Reversal in Moralizing.” 

Finally, your unhappiness with the Church often returns to the “moldy subservience” of women. It would seem you are unaware of the New Testament record of women as companions of Christ; of the presence of Mary and other women with the disciples in the upper room after Christ’s ascension; of the extraordinary regard in which Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Ávila, and Thérèse of Lisieux are held as Doctores Ecclesiae, “Doctors of the Church,” marked by eminent learning and a high degree of sanctity; and most of all, of the loving veneration of The Blessed Virgin Mary, whose status in the eyes of the Church is unequalled, except for its faithful worship of God.

So this letter is as much addressed to your editors, as to you. One expects more of the Times. May we hope for more knowledge of the subject in the future, even in an opinion piece.

With thanks, and genuine regard for the grand institution, The New York Times.

A Father’s Day Thanksgiving

In Christianity on June 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Today we honor our birth fathers, and rightfully so. The importance of their leadership in the formation of our lives is extraordinarily important. Those of us who are, or were, blessed with good fathers are given an immense headstart on life, as well as a model for the loving Fatherhood of God.

For my earthly father, I am deeply grateful, and miss him intensely. He died before I reached the emotional maturity to express all of my gratitude.

For those of us who also are blessed by the riches of the Church, as Catholic Christians, today we honor our spiritual fathers — our fathers in Christ, who minister to us daily.

Perhaps your thanksgiving and mine, to our Bishops and priests, is best expressed by the poem often reproduced on prayer cards, “The Beautiful Hands of a Priest.”   Or maybe you read yesterday’s Christianity Richly post, and recognized in Fr. Allan J. McDonald’s words the central role of our priests as they:

  • Receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders to serve us
  • Administer the Sacrament of Baptism to wash away our sins
  • Strengthen and, by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, equip us to help carry out the Great Commission
  • Offer the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, recognizing our contrition and forgiving our venial and mortal sins
  • Soothe and reassure us in times of physical distress in the Sacrament of Anointing
  • Witness our vows in the Sacrament of Marriage
  • And most of all, offer us the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (John 6:48-51) in the Eucharist

Today, let us give our spiritual fathers the love and respect they deserve and have earned, through daily, personal sacrifice on our behalf.

Dear Heavenly Father, We ask you today to richly bless our Holy Father Benedict XVI, our Bishops and priests, on this occasion when we honor our fathers — earthy and spiritual. We give you thanks for their ministry in Christ’s stead on our behalf. Guide them, protect them, and strengthen them in sanctity. May we remember them in prayer and love, not only today but daily throughout each year. In Christ’s Name, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, Amen.

I Am a Catholic Christian Because . . .

In Christianity on June 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I seldom simply point to another online writer’s work, and say, “Read this.”

But having encountered today, Fr. Allan J. McDonald’s March 5 post, “Why am I Catholic?” I’d like for his post to receive the attention it deserves. So I’ll simply say, click here and “read this.”

Fr. McDonald’s post was a blessing to me. I pray it will be for you, as well. He understands and marvelously describes — well, actually, Christianity Richly!

God be thanked for the beauties and blessings of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

And On the Next Day

In Christianity on June 15, 2012 at 10:55 am

Luke 9:37 has been part of my life for three decades. Too often I am forced to return to this verse because it describes my Christian experience: rejoicing one day on the mountaintop, as if a witness to the transfiguration of our Lord (Luke 9:28-36). And on the next day, we find ourselves back in the valley again, powerless (Luke 9:37-43).

A man in a crowd sought out our Lord and said, “Teacher, I beg you, look at my son . . . a spirit seizes him . . . I begged your disciples to cast it out but they could not” (Luke 9:40).

What demon have you and I failed to cast out of our own lives today? What has seized us? Convulsed us? Released us with difficulty, wearing us out? Left us powerless?

You know your sins, as I know mine. Yet we are not left as orphans (John 14:18). We have a sacramental understanding of Christianity, which is fundamentally different from the world, and from our separated brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christ’s miracles passed over into the Sacraments. The Catechism states, “The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God” (CCC 1129). Isn’t healing and transformation what we desire, when we experience the powerlessness of Romans 7 (“I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want”)?

Seek grace through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The Sacraments are not mere symbols. They do something; they convey grace! They heal and transform (CCC 1129). Why, then, ever delay confession?

The judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God. (CCC 1781)

Jesus Christ, the Door of the confessional, is our door of hope.”¹

¹ Fr. Jay Scott Newman, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Greenville, SC

Worth Remembering

In Christianity on June 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Don’t know about you, but it is impossible for me to read without a yellow highlighter and a fine-point black pen. My Bible is well marked and books I read are re-indexed, with notes at the back related to highlighted passages.

Reading this way provides a continuing source of riches for meditation, drawn from centuries of Christian discipleship. Passages that are most helpful — or the most challenging, in areas where I need to be a better disciple — are transferred to my prayer journal for daily review.

Periodically I’ll post some of these notes to Christianity Richly, with hopes they may prove useful, God willing, to you as well.

As an encouragement to pray daily:  “They returned to the port of pure prayer, where they fixed the anchor of their intentions.” –St. Anselm of Cantebury (†1109)

As a reminder of what gratitude I owe the Lord  for full communion in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church:  “I, through the greatness of Your love, have access to Your House.” –Psalm 5 (Grail translation)

As a challenge to live in ever-increasing holiness; to do the right things:  “If the good pleasure of God sets limits to the exercise of our particular faculties, he puts none on the exercise of the will.” –Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ (from Magnificat, July 27, 2011, on the third anniversary of my entry into the Church)

May God bless each one of us as we seek to know Christ more fully, that we may love him more completely, and follow him more faithfully. Christianity Richly!

The Sunflower

In Christianity on June 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Have been reading The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, by Simon Wiesenthal.

Christ makes all the difference in our ability to forgive. If you believe that God only created (and then stood back to watch or perhaps even “went on leave,” as one character in the book suggests), then no adequate model for forgiveness exists.

But if you know that God in Christ assumed our flesh, through the Blessed Virgin Mary, and suffered all we suffer — more, for He suffered patiently at the hands of His own creation! —  then of course we forgive.  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Do we forgive and forget? No. To do so would dishonor those against whom grave injustice was committed. Rather, in the words of Miroslav Volf, we exercise the extraordinary grace of “the nontheoretical act of nonremembering.”¹

Even the impossible act of undoing what was done would not suffice to achieve the final redemption, because the memory of what was done, unless erased, would still remain to afflict the person. Only a much more radical act of “making what happened not to have happened” would do, because if what happened was made not to have happened, then what was remembered would have been made not to have been remembered too. Which is to say, to have final redemption one may want more than “the transformation of the world plus the loss of the memory of suffering,” but one cannot want less.

Only nonremembering can end the lament over suffering which no thought can think away and no action undo.² Apparently — as we understand Holy Scripture, at least — even the Holy Trinity, infinite and all-knowing, exercise this nontheoretical act of nonremembering:  “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

How does this help us explicate and deepen the commitment we make when we pray the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others who trespass against us?”

(From 2012 prayer journal, 11 June)

¹ Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), p. 135. Read and meditate on the flow of Volf’s full argument on pp. 134-136, as well as the following pages, where Volf deals with the objection, “How dare God forget!”

² Ibid.

Daily Riches

In Christianity on June 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Gaps between Christianity Richly posts suggest how difficult the daily discipline of writing can be. Yet daily prayer, and preparation for prayer through reading, is not difficult — once we experience how often our Lord meets us during those times.

By God’s enabling, I’ve kept daily prayer journals for more than 20 years. In them, His faithfulness is recorded. Why did I not realize before today, that these journals are writings? They record the daily riches of His grace. Is it possible, then, these journals may be a source of God’s encouragement not just to me, but to others?

One cannot say. But if the Holy Spirit graciously touches the notes (and amplifications of the notes) from some of these journals — to light our way in the struggles and joys of Christian pilgimage  — then that truly will be Christianity Richly. May God grant it so.